The Source of the River Severn in the Cambrian Mountains.
The Source of the River Severn in the Cambrian Mountains.

The stream away from the source.


For Avon, think Afon, itself ‘river’
flowing from the source in Brythonic Abona

For Severn, think Sæfern, and before that Sabrina
or Habrena, then Hafren, today’s Welsh river.

Brythonic ‘flowing’ is heard in Thames, Tavy,
Team, Tame and Tamar; Tawe, Taf and Teifi.

These speak of a common spring far back, streams
of speech that still resonate in the veins

of the land, sources that leak silver ore
from the age of Iron, and before

through the valleys of Ynys Prydain.
Dubris > dwfr > dŵr, delving through terrains

of rock and soil, dark waters with names like this:
Dulas, Dowlais, Douglas, Dawlish, Divelish

from Dubglas, source of all Blackwater streams,
the Island’s diversity diverging in these names.

And so to Dee / Dyfrdwy, the Goddess Dēuā,
‘Divine Water’ flooding to fill the lake at Bala,

Aerfen’s waters, Tegid’s lake, Ceridwen’s cauldron.
In Wales and in Scotland this holy river runs.

3 thoughts on “RIVER NAMES

  1. This is a beautiful poem, and although I knew some of that, I’ve also learned from it. Thank you.

    I was wondering the other day if the Scots Gaelic ‘Abhain’ also means river (haven’t checked it out, but am guessing it’d be pronounced similarly to Afon). In Brittany, as you probably know, it’s Aber, as in Wales and Scotland, too – a rare link between Brythonic and Goidelic languages.

    Then there’s bourne/burn, but I don’t know the roots.

    1. Thanks Roselle, and yes that is the Irish for ‘river’.
      ‘Burn’. and its southern equivalent ‘bourn’ is Germanic in origin in spite of being well embedded in Scotland.

  2. I love the way you use alliteration and assonance and consonance here to bring together river names and link them to their sources. A delight on the page and to read out loud.

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